Where to look for living books
Promoting fiction to young adults is fraught with problems. There is the question of which books to choose, and, once chosen, how then to enthuse the "point-click" generation to actually read them.
As an author I have travelled all over Britain on author visits, from sunny Guernsey to the beautiful Orkney Islands. As a youth services librarian I have used all means at my disposal to encourage young people to read for pleasure.
As a writer and librarian I know that book promotion works. I receive hundreds of letters every year from pupils in schools that I have visited.
I have watched young people rush to the library shelves after hearing a well selected reading to find that particular book to borrow. I have seen the book issue figures for an author soar after a library visit. And Scottish book and author promotion seems to me to be particularly pertinent in Scotland, where young people seem aware that there have been lots of Scottish authors in the past, but perhaps not here and now.
"I thought you were deid, miss," a boy told me on one school visit. When I asked him why, he said it was because he'd seen my name on the cover of a book. For him, being an author equated with being among the non-living.
Librarians and teachers have discussed with me the various effects of author visits. They have talked in general terms about the inspiration a pupil can feel after listening to an author - the "leading to reading", which occurs in even the most uninterested, and the unlocking of a pupil's own talent. They have also pointed out the particular aspect of confidence building when a young person listens to and talks with a "live" Scottish author. Young people are often surprised to find out that a person with a similar accent and background to theirs could become a writer.
They are also sometimes surprised that a book based in Scotland could be interesting. The elements of the visit and the subject matter can validate their experiences. It enhances their own life, their reading and writing.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for a library or a school to book an author for a visit. Authors are overwhelmed with requests to do author talks and find it hard to schedule their work. I know that, much as I enjoy doing a talk, I am always conscious of the fact that it eats into writing time. I can lose a whole day to spend an hour with a group.
It is also not always possible for the library or school to obtain a subsidy. Scottish Book Trust, which operates the Writers in Scotland Scheme on behalf of the Scottish Arts Council, is inundated every year with applications.
You may now realise why I was so enthused by the idea of the Scottish Writers Project. The vision of Rhona Arthur, assistant director of the Scottish Library Association, made the project possible. Her idea of a Scottish book promotion for secondary schools, delivered as a complete package won a Scottish Arts Council New Directions lottery award of almost pound;400,000.
Pupils in the target age range (14-16 years) were asked to nominate titles of their choice. High quality print material was designed - book marks, leaflets, posters - and a custom-built book dumpbin was constructed to display the books.
It had been decided that new technology would also be used. A Scottish Writers website with a writer in residence would be live from January to June 2000 and there would be a specially designed CD-Rom. Producig the CD-Rom has proved challenging and is certainly the most exciting piece of book promotion I have ever worked on.
The concept of using technology to promote fiction reading provoked great interest from enthusiastic librarians, teachers, publishers and authors.
Two options are provided within the CD: to access directly the virtual library of information on the books and authors, or to log on for the "Scottish Writers Rescue Mission" and travel the galaxy collecting the books.
It is an exciting development by the Scottish Library Association and shows how game technology can be used as an information tool and as a device to stimulate interest in a particular topic.
The Scottish Council for Educational Technology (SCET) has also lent its assistance and helped produce the CD-Rom.
Scottish authors have been enormously generous with their time and talent. Some have been interviewed and filmed, talking about books and writing, and reading from their work.
Some have contributed biographical sketches, or pieces on reading and writing, written from their own viewpoint for the CD-Rom.
They gave gold. The CD is crammed with very many special moments - Joan Lingard's brilliance in describing the experience of reading a book, Ian Rankin telling, in just a few words, how to brush stroke detail into creative writing, and a reading by Bernard MacLaverty from Grace Notes which moved me to tears are two other highlights. The Scottish Writers website is now live and implementing exciting ideas by the writer in residence, Tom Pow.
The Scottish Library Association's project is a showcase for Scottish writing displayed and promoted in a unique way.
A free copy of the Scottish Writers CD will reach every secondary school by the end of February. The Scottish Writers website is at http:www.slainte.org.ukscotwritscwrhome.htmor Scottish Library Association, tel: 01698 458888
THREE COPIES OF THESE TITLES ARE NOW IN EACH SCOTTISH SECONDARY SCHOOL LIBRARY.
Whit by Ian BanksSoundtrack by Julia Bertagna Death or glory boys by
Winter tales by George McKay Brown
The House with Green Shutters by George McKay Brown
The 39 steps by John Buchan
Me and Ma girl by Des Dillon
The House on the Hill
by Eileen Dunlop
The Speak of the Mearns by Lewis Grassic Gibbon
Unlikely stories by Alasdair Gray
Highland River by Neil Gunn
The Cone Gatherers by
So I am glad by A L Kennedy Gridiron by Philip Kerr
The White Bird Passes by Jessie Kesson
The Shoe by Gordon Legge
Dark Shadows by Joan Lingard Private Angelo by Eric Linklater
The devil and the giro by Carl MacDougall
The Lights below by Carl MacDougall
Grace Notes by Bernard MacLaverty Black and Blue by Ian Rankin War Dolls by
Truth or Dare by Sara Sheridan
Consider the Lilies by Ian Crichton Smith
Laidlaw by William McIlvanney
The New Road by Neil Munro Shouting it Out by Tom Pow The Sherwood hero by
Alison Prince The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by R L Stevenson
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh The Magic Flute by Alan Spence
Cairteal gumeadhan-lathaa by Aonghas Pahdraig Caimbeul
Eadar peann is paipear by Domhnail Ian MacIonhair
A'Bheinn Oir by Ian Mac a Ghobhainn Co rinn e? by Domhnail Ian MacIonhair
Spuirean na h-Iolaire by Ian MacLeoid Nighean Chillach mar thu Fhein by
Anne Latharna NicGillosa